I can’t let Wyrd and Wonder go by without a shout-out to my favorite self-published fantasy books! The reading community has become more and more accepting of the fact that there are some absolute GEMS that aren’t traditionally published, and I’ve made it my goal for the last year or two to try and read one self-published book a month, and for the most part I’ve succeeded. So while the number of self-published books I’ve read in my life-time is small, it’s growing steadily all the time!
It’s also been great seeing how many different sub-genres are in this space. In my recs below, you’ll find urban fantasy, grimdark, wuxia-inspired, a classic quest adventure, regency and a fantasy noir. And that’s just a handful of what’s out there! If you’re interested in discovering more about self-published fantasy, I highly suggest you look up posts people have written for Self-Published Fantasy Month, as well as the annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO), which is just getting started on its seventh competition!
If any of these catch your fancy, I’ve linked the covers to Goodreads!
THE THIEF WHO PULLED ON TROUBLE’S BRAIDS by Michael McClung
The first in a (currently) five book series, I first read this as part of the read-along for Self-Published Fantasy Month. It’s easy to see why this was chosen to share with the community, as it’s a FANTASTIC series. A borderline grimdark adventure, it follows Amra Thetys, a thief who finds herself in the middle of machinations by various god. The books are short, under 300 pages each, but pack plenty of mystery and adventure and weird magical happenings. I’ve read four of five so far, and I cannot wait to be caught up! (Side note: I found book 2 a bit of a misstep, so if you bounce off that one please please PLEASE know that books 3 and 4 make up for it in spades!)
SNOWSPELLED by Stephanie Burgis
A delightful regency fantasy, set in an alternate England (Angland) where politics are the domain of women, but magic is the domain of men. Thus enters Cassandra Harwood the first female magician in Angland. When attending a party in the countryside, she and her fellow guests find themselves snowed in at the estate, but quickly realize that it is no ordinary snowstorm. Cassandra has to navigate elf-lords and her (absolutely lovely) ex-fiance if she’s to save the guests from harm. I’ve been very remiss in continuing with this series, hopefully I can rectify that soon!
THE VENTIFACT COLOSSUS by Dorian Hart
Now, grimdark fantasy is all well and good, but sometimes you just need a classic fantasy quest. You know what I mean: a band of unlikely heroes, gathered together by a wizard to take on the forces of darkness. THE HEROES OF SPIRA series is just such a series. I’ve read the first two books in what is planned to be a five book series (the fourth book just released in March 2021). They are absolutely fun romps, and I was surprised and intrigued at how the abilities and fates of the heroes evolved in book two, with surprising revelations about backstories and futures. I’m looking forward to reading book 3, THE GREATWOOD PORTAL, later this year. If you’re looking for a D&D-style adventure, you must check out this series!
SHADOW OF A DEAD GOD by Patrick Samphire
What most surprised me about SHADOW OF A DEAD GOD is how much it felt like a detective noir in a low-fantasy world. Lead character Mennik Thorne, a mage of only small skill, has a lot of Philip Marlowe in him. Nik, as he is called, is just trying to get by on mage-for-hire jobs, but gets in way over his head when a simple curse-breaking leaves him framed for murder. This is the only book in the series so far, but it’s a complete adventure that still has a great hook for the sequel.
UNCANNY COLLATERAL by Brian McClellan
You may recognize Brian McClellan’s name as the author of the traditionally-published POWDER MAGE series, but the VALKYRIE COLLECTIONS novellas are his self-published project. The story is set in an alternate Earth where magic is very real. Alex Fitz is a reaper, someone who collects on magical debts when people don’t pay up. In the first book, Death itself hires Alex’s company to look into some missing souls, and it’s a mad-dash adventure from there. There are only two books in the series so far, but they’re perfect to slip in between those chonky tomes you have sitting on your TBR.
NEVER DIE by Rob J. Hayes
Rob J. Hayes is one of the more prolific writers in self-published fantasy, but thus far I’ve only had time to check out his MORTAL TECHNIQUES books. Two are out so far, but are standalone entries set in the same world. MORTAL TECHNIQUES is wuxia-inspired; if you’ve ever loved CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON or similar wire arts movies, you have to give these a read. The first book, NEVER DIE, follows a renowned swordswoman, Whispering Blade, who is hired along with several other heroes to confront the despotic Emperor of Ten Kings. Great set pieces and characters, and a fantastic style of magic where every warrior has their own special fighting move that they, and they alone, can perform.
And those are my favorite reads out of what I’ve managed to read in self-published fantasy so far – please leave your own recs in the comments!